Touria Prayag's Blog

L’Express Weekly, 18 November 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

David vs. Goliath, you say?

Rehana Ameer has begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It is a victory for her. It is a victory for the unions. But is it a victory for all the employees of this country? Is it the victory of David over Goliath? Is Mrs. Ameer’s compensation and the offer of reinstatement in another public body a vindication of what the unions stand for? We hate to spoil the parade but saying ‘ yes’ would be really taking an emotional line of thinking rather than a realistic one. While we rejoice at the incredible possibilities offered to Mrs. Ameer, we could not help asking ourselves a couple of questions.

One: while we commend the unions’ stand and perseverance and we will always support them when they stand for the downtrodden, if you and I lost our jobs tomorrow, how many unions would leave everything behind, queue up to defend us and spare no effort to have us reinstated against all odds? Would the leader of the opposition take our case to Parliament and make it a national issue? Would the prime minister personally take on the case and set up a Fact Finding Committee to fi nd out whether we were meted out proper justice? Secondly, if all this happened and we were offered compensation and a job in another parastatal body, where we would not have to work with people we cannot see eye- to- eye with, would we threaten to go on hunger strike? What cause would we be defending? Admittedly, the MBC was found to be guilty of being judge and party and the result of this is that we will hopefully see a change in the MBC Act soon enough. That would be a victory for all the MBC workers. However, if the MBC was wrong, the Fact Finding Committee concluded, according to the prime minister himself, that “ les torts sont partagés ” ( the responsibility is shared). As the report clearly says, “ Before the disciplinary committee, the stand which was taken by Mrs.

Ameer …. was grossly misconceived and untenable in law,” and that she “ gave several versions in respect of the charges proffered against her.

[ The committee] was of the view that her credibility had been impaired by the absence of detailed explanation.” Let no one see in this a way of minimising Mrs. Ameer’s efforts. Far from it. She fought and fought hard, confi dent that the unions would never let her down. Good on her. Good on the unions. The aim rather is to caution against a euphoria that would equate this victory with the victory of all the workers in this country and to see in this outcome a victory of humanity. We would not have seen ‘ humanity’ if Mrs. Ameer’s employer were not the opposition’s lifetime enemy. We would not have seen ‘ humanity’ if the prime minister had not been forced to quieten down the unions and manage the bad press in an issue he had nothing to gain by prolonging unnecessarily. Now, I think he ought to stop there.

Going a step further and taking political action would be ill- advised. As Shakeel Mohamed said, “ Hundreds of workers are in the same situation as Rehana Ameer. If political action must be taken for her to get her job back, then why not do the same for all other employees that have been fi red?” And it is because of these very employees who are fi ghting alone in the dark to get a job, any job, that I cannot join in the unions’ euphoria.

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